A friend of mine, an ex-minister, once told me, “The Lebanese system works perfectly, like clockwork—but in all the wrong ways.” The money pledged by the international community at CEDRE requires long overdue structural reforms on our part. Take the deficit caused through subsidizing the failing public utility Electricité du Liban (EDL). To actually fix EDL would require our politicians to dismantle a parallel industry of which they are the benefactors. The corruption that keeps sectors like telecommunications and electricity profitable for our elite is entirely of their own making; and only through self-inflicted wounds would they be able to reform these sectors for the benefit of all Lebanese. The frequent foreign delegations who come to Lebanon surely laugh as they come out of another pointless high-level meeting, knowing that the problems they have raised were caused by these politicians, and the reforms that are so desperately needed have been blocked by these same men—and it has been men—for decades. Meanwhile, the distance between our government and the private sector and citizens continues to grow. Our government is still trying to figure out problems that should have been solved in the past, while our citizens and the private sector are looking toward our future in the digital age. The worry is that the more they move into the digital world, the more their reality will be on screens rather than on the streets—leaving our politicians free to manipulate those who are left behind. Our survival depends on our ability to stay connected to the realities on the ground. And one reality that we cannot ignore, as we celebrate another women’s month, is that when it comes to gender roles, Lebanese culture has to change. And it is not our women who have to change, it is our men. Women are doing their best in a system designed against them. Men are doing their worst in a system geared to their every whim. Lebanese men have to cast aside their entitlement and make the necessary changes to push Lebanon into the 21st century. They must tear down the current system—one made by men for the benefit of men—so that all Lebanese, regardless of gender, are treated equal.
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